WATWB September 2021 – Stories of Now and Ben

This tweet, from a journo whom I went to school with, sent me down an internet rabbit hole.

The tweet is very recent. The story a bit older.

It’s a good news story for at least two people. The fine young Ben and for older Ben at least.

So, welcome to the #WATWB We Are The World Blogfest post for September 2021. Please follow other posts with the #WATWB. And…back to the story.

So Ben Farinazzo is a former Australian Army Officer who did tours of duty in the East Timor peacekeeping operation. He has been living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and has recovered from a mountain bike accident causing a spinal injury as well.

The bio notes on his webpage tell it better:

I was fighting an internal battle against
post
-traumatic stress disorder, depression
and anxiety. I then broke my neck and back
in a mountain bike accident. It felt like I
was walking through the valley of the
shadow of death.

Three years later I represented Australia in
indoor rowing and powerlifting at Invictus
Games Sydney 2018 and was fortunate to
win two gold medals. Today, I am a proud
Australia Day Ambassador and support
mental health, veterans and sport.

This is a fabulous story about brokenness, reconnection and resilience. You may also want to check Ben’s Youtube channel for footage the like the screenshot of the one featured here.

Source: Ben Farinazzo YouTube Channel

This is a good introduction by Ben Himself.

Since I posted this another chapter emerged on ABC News Australia about how to two Bens were reunited.

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#WATWB August 2021 Afghani Paralympians

Welcome to the We Are The World #WATWB Blogfest for August and thanks to our co-hosts, participants and readers once more. I missed out last month and am delighted to scrape in this time around.

Some of us have watched in horror as the Afghanistan human rights disaster unfolds. But then I saw this story on the Tokyo Paralympics from SBS News Australia:

Zakia Khudadadi and Hossain Rasouli arrived in the Japanese capital after a week-long stay in Paris, where they had been housed after fleeing their homeland following the Taliban takeover.

They are now set to be resettled in Australia, according to former Socceroo and refugee advocate Craig Foster and a lawyer assisting the efforts. 

Source SBS News Australia https://www.sbs.com.au/news/afghan-paralympians-evacuated-to-tokyo-given-australian-humanitarian-visas accessed 30 August 2021

As the story continues….

Zakia will be the first female Afghan to compete at the Games since 2004 in Athens when she takes part in the women’s K44 -49kg taekwondo event on Thursday.

Hossain will line up in the heats of the men’s 400m T47 athletics event on Friday.

Lawyer Alison Battisson from Human Rights for All was involved in the efforts to evacuate scores of athletes out of Afghanistan.

She told SBS News she worked with an intern lawyer at her firm to assist Zakia and Hossain escape Afghanistan.

“I have this amazing legal intern who works as a plasterer two days a week so he can then work at my firm three days a week, Eric Zhang, he did [Zakia’s] application.

You can play along with more of the story here. Some may argue what about the many, many other Afghanis still trapped? Indeed. Stories like this might inspire other sports and organisations to get involved. That may save some other lives.

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#WATWB June 2021 – A Place To Vaccinate Indigenous Australians

Welcome to another post of the We Are The World Blogfest where I’m just sneaking in before the clock ticks over to July. Please show your support to other #WATWB bloggers.

Australians are entering NAIDOC Week 2021. With the COVID Delta on the move, many Indigenous have opted out of in person and public events. But the memories and still there and the culture and stories are to be told. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are highly vulnerable to exotic viruses and particularly to the Corona virus.

But, there is this news from our state of South Australia:

Watto Purrunna Aboriginal Health Clinic worker Adrian Coulthard getting vaccinated in one of the dedicated bays Source: Supplied. Accessed from SBS News 30 June 2021 9.40pm

‘Until recently Ngarrindjeri elder Stephanie Gollan had reservations about getting the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.

But her feelings about the shot changed when she joined a program in Adelaide that supports Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders through the process.

The Watto Purrunna Aboriginal Primary Health Care Service has reserved two cubicles at a vaccine hub in Playford in Adelaide’s north to create a supportive and culturally appropriate environment for Indigenous Australians.’

As reported by SBS News Australia. You can read more about it here. It is great to know, as we enter NAIDOC Week, that some people are looking out for our vulnerable Indigenous peoples.

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#WATWB May – The Conversations in Train

Welcome to We Are The World Blogfest yet again. Unlike trains, I’m not on time. Did I miss Platform nine and three quarters? Hardly.

But, I’ve grown up in a family that had generations of us on and off the rails, so to speak! Both the paternal and maternal line of our clan (or crew) are loaded with railway people. Not least of these was our late Dad who served the New South Wales rail system for 43years.

So, I’m delighted to share with you the story of Heather. Meanwhile, mind the gap!

Heather in the Cabin. Source: BBC News accessed 31 May 2021.

Heather is a Scottish train driver. As the BBC News tells us:

As Scotland’s only woman freight train driver, Heather Waugh was already a pioneer. Then a tragedy from her past inspired her to take on a new mission – getting men to talk about their mental health.

When it was time to set off, Heather briskly pulled a handle towards her: “Star Trek-style”, she said, deadpan, as though she were Mr Sulu putting the USS Enterprise into warp speed. But this wasn’t a spaceship; it was a British Rail-vintage Class 90 locomotive. Its motors growled, then the train shuddered forward.

Behind her, container wagons stretched down the line for three-quarters of a mile. It wasn’t Heather’s job to know what sort of cargo she was carrying, just how much it all weighed – tonight, a little under 1,500 tonnes – and whether it included anything hazardous. Her task was to drive the lot of it south through the valleys of lowland Scotland and beyond.’

After a time, there was a tragic incident, and Heather found herself in a doctor’s surgery and with a month’s leave. Later she switched from passenger to freight trains and a strange, yet fascinating thing happened.

‘Historically, freight had been widely regarded – inaccurately, Heather quickly discovered – as dirty, heavy, physically draining work, and the workplace was exclusively male as a result. “In this day and age, you don’t expect to be the only woman,” she says. “Even with my background, it was intimidating.”

To her surprise, her new colleagues were overjoyed to have her on the team. They’d look forward to her being on shift – not because they wanted to chat her up, but because they could open up to her about their problems in a way they wouldn’t with other men, Heather found. “I’ve had conversations with colleagues where I know I’m the first person they’ve had that conversation with,” Heather says.’

Heather went and trained in new skills ‘”…teaching staff to recognise what is out of the ordinary,” she says. “As human beings it’s our job to go and take five minutes to speak to somebody and say, ‘Are you OK?'” she says.’

Heather helped men talk about their problems to, literally, lighten one of the loads they were carrying.

Our co-hosts for this month are Susan Scott and Eric Lahti and we are grateful.

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#WATWB March 2021 – On the Bus

Welcome to the We Are The World Blogfest #WATWB. We have been going since March 2017, sharing good news stories. Our c0-hosts this time around are:

Sylvia McGrath, Roshan Radhakrishnan, Shilpa Garg, Eric Lahti, and Belinda Witzenhausen.

Picture from Channel Nine News Canberra, Australia. Accessed 28 March 2021.

To join this post you’ll need to hop on the bus! The Sleep Bus to be more exact. Not far from where I live, a city of Queanbeyan, NSW (Australia) has acquired a Sleep Bus.

Like many parts of the world we have issues here with homelessness. People who cannot find or fit in a home to live. The Sleep Bus movement provides a shower and short-term bunk accommodation for homeless people. A great idea.

You can check out a report from our Channel 9 Network that they posted to their Facebook Page.

You can hear more about Sleep Bus from their website, as their founder, Simon Rowe (what a first name!) talks you through with short video updates.

Simon Rowe in one of the Sleep Buses he and his son are making. From their website. Accessed 28 March 2021.

What a rolling, practical way to give some help to those needing somewhere to sleep.

Here’s an excerpt from a poem by Meghan O’Rourke called “Sleep”. You can read the rest at Poetry Foundation. They may even read it to you.

…In the bedroom the moon is a dented spoon,
cold, getting colder, so hurry sleep,
come creep into bed, let’s get it over with;
lay me down and close my eyes…

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#WATWB February 2021 – Music Teacher Helps Heal Trauma of Refugees

Welcome to another post of the We Are The World Blogfest #WATWB. For this month we have fabulous co-hosts yet again.

Sylvia McGrathPeter Nena, Shilpa Garg,  Eric Lahti and  Belinda McGrath Witzenhausen.

I always seem to be late with posts these days. But here we go.

Photo credit: SBS news, accessed 28 February 2021.

A music teacher is “helping refugees to heal their trauma through song” as reported by Sandra Fulloon from SBS News.

“Bashar Hanna fled Iraq after the war and later set up a choir for others who have left their homelands. Amid the lasting mental health impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, he says he’s doing what he can to help.”

A choir member, Rula, is humming what turns out to be a tune “called Mother Earth, the lyrics describe living in peace, without war.”

The theme resonates with teacher, Bashar, and his student, Rula. Having both fled Bagdad as refugees it is consoling for them. This is because the COVID lockdowns led to these refugees reliving some of the traumas of the Gulf War.

So… Bashar “founded several art-based therapy groups including The Choir of Love, which partners with STARTTS, the NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors.”

“Music, from my point of view, is a very powerful tool; it’s a language.” BASHAR HANNA

You can read more of the SBS news report about Bashar, Rula and others here.

The We Are The World Blogfest started around this time a few years ago and has continued on most months of each year. Please check out posts by our co-hosts and others. You can also follow #WATWB on all the main social media.

I don’t need to post a poem this time around as music is a poetic medium. We are so glad it is too!

#WATWB January 2021

It’s almost hard to believe that we are in 2021. As Aussies down South (where I am) are coming through a heatwave, those in the North of our world are playing in the snow. We are all trying to do the best we can to both contain COVID and to keep connected.

The We Are The World Blogfest #WATWB is all about connecting us with good news. For the first month of 2021 our co-hosts are:

Sylvia Grath, Shilpa Garg, Mary J. Giese, Belinda Witzenhausen and yours truly.

Living through the fires of Summer 2019-20 and across COVID into 2021 is itself good news. But this week we celebrated Australians of the Year. ‘Australia Day’ itself is being debated. Which is also good news for free speech as people search for the reasons of who we are and what we stand for.

Source: https://www.sbs.com.au/news/an-aboriginal-activist-and-an-advocate-for-migrant-women-are-among-the-2021-australians-of-the-year?fbclid=IwAR0BP-TnG9x831Dzs49sqkNGMjD0Sk9JK1qJ3R5MgIh7SCPjF5lf77u52fs Accessed 29 January 2021.

In the midst of that I present recipients of Australians of the Year under four categories. These are people who shine a light for the way of humanity.

Senior Australian of the Year:

“Dr Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr Baumann, an Aboriginal elder from the Nauiyu community in the Katherine region of the Northern Territory, is an artist, activist, writer and public speaker. “

Young Australian of The Year:

“At the age of 18, Isobel Marshall, from Adelaide, and her school friend Eloise Hall set up a social enterprise to end the stigma around menstruation and improve access to female hygiene products.”

Australian Local hero:

“Kenyan-born Rosemary Kariuki, from Oran Park southwest of Sydney, fled family abuse and violence in her home country in 1999. She became a multicultural community liaison officer with Parramatta Police in 2005, helping migrants fleeing domestic violence.”

Australian of the Year:

“Grace Tame was 15 years old when she was first groomed and raped by her 58-year-old maths teacher, who was later found guilty and jailed for his crimes. But while her abuser was able to speak publicly about the case, Ms Tame was gagged by an archaic law in Tasmania that prevents victims of sexual abuse from identifying themselves. With the help of the #LetHerSpeak campaign, Ms Tame applied to the Supreme Court for the right to publicly self-identify – and won.”

Source and for the full story: An Aboriginal activist and an advocate for migrant women are among the 2021 Australians of the Year (sbs.com.au).


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#WATWB November 2020 – Social Media Mental Health and Racism

Well I’m off to a late start again! My biggest good news this week was being able to see a really wonderful friend – and in person too! However, we aren’t here for that purpose.

Our latest #WATWB co-hosts are

Lizbeth Hartz, Inderpreet Uppal, Shilpa Garg, Damyanti Biswas, and Roshan Radhakrishnan.

Please hop on over to their pages.

I have long been interested in people and culture. We have such a vast array of them in our world. At times our “otherness” can lead to competition and conflict. At others we enrich each other in our variety.

Image from ABC News – ABC Life November 2020

So when I saw that the Australian ABC had this story on their ABC Life list, I had to have a look. It can be used for other aspects of social media but they have applied to racism.

There are four suggestions. I’ll provide a taster quote for each one and you can go to the link yourselves at your leisure.

Suggestion One: Setting Firm Boundaries for Yourself

“This can include your engagement on social media, who you deal with and how you deal with them,” says Naarm-based counsellor Tigist Kebede.

She has some simple advice to start with.

“Log off. Especially in times of distress or where you feel overwhelmed, having contained periods where you use social media can be life-changing.” For more.

Suggestion Two: Connection is Key

Whether it’s spending more time with (biological or chosen) family, finding a mentor in your workplace or seeking out online communities, prioritise connections with people who share a base-level understanding of what you’re going through.

“Connection — whether it’s to community, to an individual, to others — is about finding your people,” Ms Kebede says.

“It’s not just because they’re the same colour but because they understand your experiences that you can share the load with them.” More on connection.

Suggestion Three: Give Yourself Space to Feel

Experiencing racism can overwhelm us with anger, anxiety and pain. It can impact us in many ways: mentally, physically and spiritually.

Rather than bury your feelings, “check in with yourself” is Ms Kebede’s advice.

“It’s about holding space, compassion and empathy for yourself and for your needs. If you feel you want more.

Suggestion Four: Reclaim the Narrative

In Professor Carlson’s experience, it’s Indigenous peoples’ ability to see the funny side that often helps them deal with the repetitive trauma of “another day in the colony”, to quote Dr Chelsea Bond.

Deploying humour has become a powerful tool for Indigenous social media users to speak back to racist and non-factual online commentary.

“That’s something I love about our mob, being able to see the irony. You get people saying ‘Australia was colonised peacefully’ — well, you can show just how laughable that is by turning it into a meme like [the Facebook page] Blackfulla Revolution does so well.” More on reclaiming.

There is more to the article than what I have gratuitously cut and paste from ABC Life. The link is in each quote.

As I was preparing this post some other words were forming. Below is an excerpt and link.

Not Just Some Other

I am black

I am white

In restful dark

And shining light.

I am yellow

I am red

I am hard at work

And resting in bed.

More here.


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#WATWB October 2020 One World Learning in a Pandemic

Another month has whisked away and I missed the reminders for #WATWB! But here we are with the We Are the World Blogfest to end October 2020.

Sylvia McGrath, Mary Giese , Shilpa Garg, Sylvia Stein and Belinda Witzenhausen are our co-hosts for this time around. Please head over to their posts as well.

There has been much discussion over time about what this year of disasters has been teaching us. Some are enjoying more time in nature. Some have cherished time in their household working on both relationships and the building of the house itself (perhaps even getting rid of things no longer needed!). Others have learned new skills and new ways of learning.

Self

Daniel Goleman, one of the people who raised our attention to Emotional Intelligence, has continued working and puts out a monthly newsletter. He includes some work he did with a coach on how she used emotional intelligence with her clients. Then he adds these:

When you have strong self-awareness, you:

  • Know what you are feeling, why you feel it, and how it impacts your ability to perform and relate
  • Understand clearly your strengths and limits, leading to a realistic sense of self-confidence 
  • Connect to your values and sense of purpose, allowing you to cultivate a more meaningful life.

A useful check-in for this year we are having.

Self and Others We Are Connected To


Moving from good news to our self to with others, in the latest newsletter on LinkedIn Goleman includes a video of the piece Bolero, by the classical composer Ravel. But it is another one of the virtual concerts, celebrating people from various places joining in to play and dance.

Here is a screenshot and link.

Part of the good news we have learned this year is that we can still be connected to other people, and their great gifts, even in times of isolation and lack of travel.

Self and Others Different From Us

Goleman offers another video. This takes our awareness to peoples from a culture that may be different from us. The video is a song by Jackson Browne and his band.

It tells the story of a people in Haiti and their resilience. There is a screenshot above and here is a link to the clip. It broadens our compassion and our solidarity to be part of such stories.  Thanks to Jackson’s song I need not post a poem this time around either.

Some of the things we have learned this year as we have all lived in a pandemic is to be more aware of ourselves, of others we are connected to, and of peoples in cultures around our world. Perhaps we are coming closer to understanding that we are one world. To me that sounds like good news.

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#WATWB September 2020 – Cathy Freeman Foundation

Welcome to the #WATWB blogfest for September 2020. Our fabulous co-hosts are:

Eric Lahti, Peter Nena Shilpa Garg, Roshan Radhakrishnan, and  Sylvia Stein.

Interview with Christine Anu on ABC News Australia.

Picture: ABC News Australia YouTube channel.

Being a 1970s child was quite an experience. But it just dawned on me that I shared being born in the early 70s with Cathy Freeman. For those of us in Australia Cathy Freeman is a household name. Cathy represented Australia in athletics and, during the opening ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, she lit the Olympic Cauldron.

This year is 20 years since Cathy played such a significant role in those Olympic Games. But that is not the reason for the post this time around. What I would like to highlight, given it’s more particular focus on WATWB matters, is the work of the Cathy Freeman foundation. This foundation gives an opportunity for young indigenous people to access educational and vocational opportunities. This is especially significant for those geographically remote locations.

Some would be aware, some would not, that Cathy Freeman is an Australian indigenous woman. She represents the aboriginal and therefore First Nations people of Australia. Part of the work of her foundation is creating opportunities for young indigenous women and men to find their way in life. In an interview on Friday, 25 September 2020, Eastern Australian time, ABC News journalist, Christine Anu, interviews Cathy Freeman on her life during and after the Olympic Games and also her life with the Cathy Freeman foundation.

I have included the link and hope you enjoy the interview between Christine and Cathy. Although not an indigenous Australian myself, I was both deeply moved by Cathy‘s presence in the 2000 Olympic Games and also to hear of the great work in her foundation.

Perhaps some of you reading this may also be moved or even inspired.

Also, don’t forget to have a look at any other posts who are tagged with WATWB. Thank you for supporting our work to promote good news stories.


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